Crowds don’t always have the most positive connotation.

You’ve got your mobs, your rabbles, even your riots. Once in a while, though, you get a group of folks coming together for the common good. That’s exactly what Nintendo has managed to organize with the release of Super Mario Maker for the Wii U.

For non-gamers or those who’ve been living under a POW block, Super Mario Maker is a Mario level creator at its core. Interestingly, it was originally born as a tool for Nintendo’s crackshot staff of designers to streamline stage creation for its popular platforming franchise Super Mario Bros.

Like free speech, elections and the Interwebs, however, some ideas are best realized when you get a large number of people involved, and it’s this democratization of sorts that truly makes a level creator tool like Super Mario Maker realize its full potential. Take it from someone who remembers what life was like before the Internet was around and folks were pretty much isolated in their own little corners of the world.

At the heart of Super Mario Maker is a collection of tools designed to tap into the inner creativity of folks. Admittedly, it can be quite intimidating at first, but the game does a good job of easing aspiring designers into it. One way it does this is by limiting access to all the tools until you’ve spent time playing around with the level creation options you have available. Eventually, you’ll be able to unlock everything after a few days.

One of the neat things about the level creator is how you can toggle between the look of the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and the 2.5D New Super Mario Bros. Nintendo’s decision to include all these styles as opposed to doing them one by one and spreading them across multiple game releases is good news for gamers and their wallets. Super Mario Maker also throws in a bunch of extra elements that weren’t present in the previous games. You can now bring in doors or giant Goombas in a classic Super Mario Bros. level that uses the look of the original game, for example. You can also let folks play as other classic Nintendo characters or even foes such as a Goomba. This allows players to create more fresh experiences for even veteran players on top of the fact that they’re playing a new level.

Besides the new stuff, however, a key strength of Super Mario Maker lies in the old, and by that I mean the rock solid controls of the Mario series. Whether you’re playing a classic looking level or a New Super Mario Bros. stage, controlling your character just feels right and has that classic feel that Mario players know and love. You’ll need those excellent controls, too, as some of the community-created stages that you’ll run into can be quite brutal. See, in addition to uploading your own creations, you can also try out the levels designed by other players, which is one of the best parts of the game.

I must say that I’m incredibly amazed with some of the stages created by other players. Whether it be a stage that lets you chain jump on top of a bazillion goombas, creative fights with Bowser and Bowser Jr., or a level that requires you to run alongside a giant shell to trigger a cool bulldozing combo, the creativity demonstrated by the Mario Maker community can be astounding. In fact, they make me as jelly as Wendy Testaburger because I know I can never make stages that are just as cool. Also, while there may be difficult levels in there, none of them are impossible as level creators are required to finish their own creations before they can upload them. If you do find a creator whose work you really like, you can follow them so you can be updated every time they upload a new level. Rounding out the list of features is Amiibo functionality for unlocking various costumes or, in the case of the 30th Anniversary Mario figure, a Big Mushroom powerup.

Admittedly, getting your creations noticed among a slew of uploaded creations can be a challenge. The fact that you don’t have all tools accessible to you right off the bat also will be a bummer for folks who want to fully get into the level creating action right away without having to wait a few days to do so. Also, while the game comes with extra baked-in modes such as the 100 Mario Challenge, I wish that it also came with a full-fledged campaign.

Despite its issues, however, Super Mario Maker remains an enjoyable title that makes the Mario world your oyster, er, Koopa shell. Whether it be the game’s ability to nurture your inner level creator or inspire future game designers, Super Mario Maker is a great example of the potential that lies in tapping the power of the crowd. Even if you’re terribad at stage design, being able to enjoy the crazy creations of other folks makes it worth the prize of admission. Now how about a Super Mario RPG Maker, Nintendo?

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Price: $60

Rating: E for Everyone

Release Date: September 11

Score: 4.5 out of 5

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